PCOS is a fairly common condition affecting women of reproductive age. Whilst PCOS cannot be cured, symptoms such as acne and irregular periods can often be managed with contraception. But which birth control is best for PCOS?
What is PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)?
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, also known as PCOS, is a condition that affects how a woman’s ovaries work. Its exact cause is unknown but it is thought to be related to an imbalance of hormones which means that an egg may not develop as it should. This can impact on ovulation and can cause irregular periods. Polycystic ovaries contain harmless follicles that are undeveloped sacs in which eggs develop. As these sacs are often unable to release an egg, ovulation may therefore not take place.
What are PCOS symptoms?
PCOS can come with a variety of symptoms which may vary from person to person. Not all women with PCOS will have all of the symptoms, and each symptom can vary from mild to severe.
Symptoms of PCOS include:
- Irregular periods including missed periods and no periods
- Increased body hair usually around the stomach, chest, face or back (called hirsutism)
- Acne or oily skin
- Difficulty getting pregnant as a result of irregular ovulation or not ovulating
- Hair loss – women may experience thinning of the hair on their head
- Weight gain
You should talk to your GP if you have any of these symptoms and think you may have PCOS. Whilst PCOS cannot be cured, the symptoms of PCOS can be managed. Your GP will be able to recommend the best treatment options depending on your symptoms.
Best contraception for PCOS
The best pill for PCOS
The combined pill may be recommended as a form of contraception if you have PCOS and is a way to induce more regular periods. Progesterone tablets may also be used for 10-14 days of the cycle to help induce bleeds, to help reduce the risk of endometrial cancer which is associated with not having regular periods. The combined pill may also be recommended as a way to manage PCOS symptoms such as acne, hair loss and hirsutism.
What about the vaginal ring and contraceptive patch?
Similar to the combined pill, the vaginal ring and contraceptive patch are methods which also contain oestrogen and progestogen. This means that although compared to the combined pill they may look different and how you use them is different, these three methods all act in the same way and have the same benefits for women with PCOS.
The hormonal coil (IUS) for PCOS
The hormonal coil may also be recommended as another method of contraception for someone with PCOS as it keeps the womb lining thin, reducing the risk of endometrial cancer, though it may not produce regular periods.
Can your contraception make you gain weight if you have PCOS?
With PCOS there are some contraceptives that are more widely recognised as making users gain weight. Whilst the mini pill may also be an option for some women with PCOS, some of our mini pill reviews had personal experiences with the progesterone only pill that caused them to put on weight. Weight gain is also a well recognised side effect of the contraceptive injection, so this form of contraception is not recommended if this is an issue. If users are already overweight then the combined pill may not be right for you and it is best to seek a your doctor’s advice.
Best contraceptives for managing PCOS symptoms
The combined pill is usually prescribed as the best birth control for PCOS acne sufferers. Containing both oestrogen and progestogen, the combined pill can help oily skin and acne.
If you are struggling with hair loss or excessive hair growth (hirsutism) due to excessive androgens related to PCOS, your GP may also recommend the combined pill as a form of treatment.
It will vary from person-to-person as to which contraception is best for PCOS, so ensure you seek advice from a medical professional before choosing your method.